Stay warm this season! How to prevent hypothermia and frostbite

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(ABC4) – As temperatures continue to drop throughout Utah, it’s critical to prioritize the health and safety of ourselves and our loved ones.

Hypothermia and frostbite are common medical conditions caused by prolonged exposure to cold weather. According to the CDC, hypothermia is defined as having an abnormally low body temperature, while frostbite is a physical injury that is induced by freezing. Health officials are offering tips on preventing weather-related dangers and staying safe this winter season. 

Hypothermia occurs when an individual’s body begins to lose heat at a faster rate than it is being produced. 

Although hypothermia is most often derived in extremely cold climates, it can even develop at temperatures above 40°F if the individual is dampened or wet. 

Indications of hypothermia include cognitive signs such as confusion and memory loss as well as physical symptoms like fatigue, shivering, difficulties speaking, and fumbling hands. Hypothermia is a critical condition, and any person with a body temperature below 95°F should seek medical attention immediately.  

If medical help is inaccessible, it is necessary to provide the affected individual with body warmth and dry clothing. In extreme cases, individuals suffering from hypothermia can become unconscious and may even lose a pulse. In these cases, performing CPR becomes imperative. 

Frostbite is a less severe condition than hypothermia, but that is not to say it should be overlooked. In many cases, frostbite can serve as a warning sign of hypothermia. 

Frostbite can be easier to identify than hypothermia, as it’s physically detectible. Individuals suffering from frostbite usually experience numbness of the affected areas as well as discoloring of the skin. Frostbitten skin can appear red, white, grey, blue, purple, brown, or black depending on the severity of the condition, and often has a texture that feels firm or waxy. 

If you or someone you know is suffering from frostbite, seek medical care. However, if medical care is not available you can heat the affected areas by submerging them in warm–not hot–water, or by using body heat. 

Both hypothermia and frostbite are conditions that we should be wary of over the upcoming weeks. The most effective way to prevent the development of either ailment is to dress appropriately for the weather. In order to stay safe this season, make layers your friend and be sure to cover your extremities when braving the cold.

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